Improved access to information as UNMISS funds renovation of Bentiu radio station
In December 2013, when South Sudan became engulfed in civil war, one of the first casualties was Bentiu 99.0 FM, a radio station that went off air. Almost nine years later, thanks to funding by the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), it has returned, reaching more listeners than ever before.
“We haven’t been able to get information about the peace agreement or other vital developments, so this is what we have been waiting for. We are very happy about the return of the station, it’s a big UNMISS achievement and one that we will always remember” said Nyakoang Maluai, a concerned citizen of Bentiu who attended the ceremony where the renovated facilities were handed over to the government of Unity State, whose Ministry of Information and Communication will operate the broadcasting.
In its previous incarnation, Bentiu 99.0 FM only reached 35 kilometres. The refurbished and upgraded station will have a range of more than 200 kilometres, covering all seven counties of the state, the Ruwent Administrative Area and parts of Lakes State. The potential number of listeners is an estimated 600,000 people, half of whom are believed to be women.
Hiroko Hirahara, Head of the peacekeeping mission’s Field Office in Bentiu, emphasizes the role the radio station will play in terms of civic education and the promotion of peace and dialogue.
“Getting this station back on air has been one of our priority projects, as access to information creates confidence and trust, thus contributing to a conducive environment for refugees and internally displaced persons to return to their homes,” she said, mentioning health education, truth and reconciliation, gender equality, peace messaging and the empowerment of youth among the topics that can be promoted.